Vincent walks down the aisle in a red checkered shirt, but what captures my eyes this time is the banner above his head: I Love You, it says, in big red letters and I can't help thinking that I like this match between his shirt and what's behind him much better than what I saw in the previous installment of Controversy. For this is clear language, you see, and quite impossible to be ambiguous about. This stands in contrast to today's topic about language that gets fuzzy in certain contexts. To what extent should we value such language, and if we do, under what conditions can we accept aberrant deviations from the norm? The show began with an example from text messaging, a context that lends itself particularly well to all sorts of reductions, and because of reductions, potential confusions. The text was about someone getting up in the morning and sending a text to a friend, in which not only the morning atmosphere was reported on, by way of lettering, but also the existential state of the soul was considered, as the agent felt 'fubar' (fucked up beyond all recognition).

The question posed to the four guests—men in different professions: professor, actor, entertainer, and rapper—was this one: is it all right to fuck up a national language with such fucked up expressions? The professor, who some might think would offer a conservative answer and deem such acts of denigrating a language awful, was actually quite cool about the whole misere. At the other pole, and contrary to expectation, the actor, an Iranian born stand-up comedian, embodied the guardian of the Danish language. If you want history, you've got to keep your mother's tongue, man. And if you go to a country that's not your country of origin, you've got to learn the language, man. Well, who can argue with that? Neither the psychoanalysts, nor the historians would object.

I'm at a conference with a bunch of psychoanalysts right now, and thus I can't help thinking: what language does the mother speak? In some of the talks today, one thing emerged that was clear: the mother, prior to the child's acquisition of language, can be thought of as an original thing, and it is with this original thing that we all desire to establish or re-establish a harmonious fusion at all times. As an original thing, the mother transcends gendering, yet as the mother is also part of culture, the nourishment she provides through love and language can also be a nourishment that makes you ill. Just look at Hamlet. Man, in that play, they all die from poisoning. Now, I feel like going next door and have another session with my friend and analyst Robert Silhol, but I'm afraid of what he might say. At dinner, we parted with these words: “the next question you are going to pose to me,” Robert said, “I'm going to charge.”

The question, which partly referred to his talk on Hawthorne's The Scarlett Letter, was one of language and the letters that we all find inscribed, if not within ourselves, then certainly above our heads. Language changes over time, that's certain, but what is less certain is the extent to which we acquire the ability to read these changes. That language is dynamic does not automatically imply that we can all read, which we do in a much more static and introvert way. Here's an ad hoc example of a question concerning the difference between discourse and reading: how do I read Vincent's intent to talk about language in use, when, at the outset he frames us up by implying that what he actually wants to talk about is less talk and more reading. For, if we can see the writing on the wall, can we also read it?


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